Educators at Village Way schools encourage at-risk students to believe in themselves in order to achieve their dreams.
By Karen Sallerson
Karen Sallerson is the Executive Director of Friends of Yemin Orde. She recently returned to Israel to visit Yemin Orde Youth Village, tour Village Way partner educational communities and meet the dedicated educators who are working hard to help Israel’s at-risk youth achieve success in school and in their lives.
On my recent visit to Israel, Chaim Peri beamed with pride when explaining how Village Way Educational Initiatives (VWEI) is taking the methodology and building an upright civil society through education.
When I asked Haim Rubovitch, CEO, VWEI, to explain what makes us unique from other educational programs he said, “No other organization in Israel has a coherent philosophy. We are not just about learning in general but more about how to build better citizens that are value-laden. We are the only organization that brings a methodology to all staff in different settings so we can have a much wider impact.”
I was able to hear first-hand from the principals and staff of two of our Village Way partner communities and meet some of the students who are benefiting from the changing attitudes of their educators. I was struck by how the staff uses the same terminology used at Yemin Orde Youth Village and how they have internalized what they are learning from the VWEI facilitator assigned to their school.
Educators are energized by the Village Way
Rifka, the principal of a vocational school in Midgal HaEmek, was very complimentary of the facilitator that is working with her staff. She said he is “amazing, charismatic and gets educators to open their hearts. Teachers feel more energized.”
Rifka herself is amazing. She was so inspired by her first meeting with Dotan Levi, Director, Village Way Educational Institute, that she created a large poster that hangs on the wall behind her desk that illustrates the message “It Takes A Village To Raise a Child”.
Rifka shared with me that she has spent 35 years in education and this is the first time she is participating in a program that addresses the needs of the teachers. Every day, teachers gather before school starts and again at noon to share personal stories.
I met Shelly, a student at the school, who appreciates the attention she is given and the fact that she can go to any educator in the school with a question because everyone feels responsible for each other. Before coming to the school, she had no dream for her future. Now she is working to matriculate so she can work for the military police.
Educators encourage students to dream and have self-confidence
At the Arab school I visited in the city of Tamra, students talk about their dreams and are encouraged to believe in themselves to fulfill dreams.
The staff proudly showed me the wall of dreams which was created in tandem with a lesson about Mohammed. This was the brainchild of the dedicated and talented VWEI facilitator.
While at Tamra, I saw the school’s dining room where I was told that the kids have breakfast and lunch. These meals at school are unusual but needed because of the challenging homes these students come from.
One teacher told me that the Village Way helps to frame language for what they are doing. Educators are able to practice ideas and have the opportunity to learn together, share stress and how to handle challenging situations. They are learning how to compromise and negotiate to solve problems instead of using violence. The staff is learning how to work as a team.
Village Way in action
The school principal in Tamra, said that a good relationship between teachers and students is instrumental in successful completion of matriculation. He also spoke about the graduate program they have started which is a core component of the Village Way philosophy-Anchors in the Future.
Similar to Yemin Orde, graduates play an integral role in the lives of current students. I watched a video of graduates talking about their journey. This is shown to incoming students so they know right away they can achieve whatever they want.
I found it so interesting and satisfying to hear Arab educators speak about Tikkun Olam and Tikkun Halev. I felt a sense of pride hearing about the projects in the community for Good Deeds Day and how it was the first time that students felt they could offer something to others.
Trust is learned by participating in outdoor physical activities and a therapeutic horseback riding program. The school is also working on programs to create better relationships between students and their parents and between parents and the school.
It was an honor to spend time out in the field and meet the men and women who are making a difference in the lives of so many vulnerable youth. They all believe their students deserve the best and thanks to the guidance and support of VWEI, they are able to transform these teens into productive members of Israeli society.